CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Systems are used in nearly every industry today. CRM systems originated in the late 70's and early 80's as a way for companies to generate a database of sales contacts and document a pipeline of future sales. Before capturing that information in a single system, companies would train their sales staff of how to organize their day planner (remember those?).
A steady Sales Manager would meet daily or weekly with their staff to review appointments and gather feedback about prospects and pipelines. In 1986, ACT! really changed the game and is widely recognized as the one of trailblazers in CRM technology. Early CRM systems for the first time allowed a sales manager to see all customer data in a single pane of glass and organize their sales staff to create appointments, follow ups, and forecast sales.
Over the past fifteen years or so, CRM systems have become so commonplace that even the least technologically forward companies have adopted a system. Companies of all sizes rely on their CRM data to create customer centric organizations and keep in constant touch with their sales team. There are many reasons why a CRM system is a must have today for managing the sales pipeline, and recently we have seen the proliferation CRM systems for use in ways that were not originally expected.
Sales teams are no longer required to schedule their next customer phone call or follow up email in their planner. Many systems today actually create those next steps automatically for the user. A sales manager will typically map out their "target" sales cycle and configure the software to automate each step of the process.
By letting the CRM system automate each step, management can ensure that the sales team properly follows up with each and every opportunity. Likewise, the system will allow the salesperson to record details of their conversation and feedback from the customer at each step along the way. This data helps the team to stay on track and close more deals.
Promotion (LTO) Programs
When a company identifies that it is time to offer a promotional program they are leveraging their CRM data to target the right customers. Typically using a "Campaign", evaluations can be made of the last purchase by a customer, average spend, and interested products. After identifying the right subset of customers, a company can ensure they offer the right discounts at the right time.
After launching the Limited Time Offer, the company can review the effectiveness of their campaign using built in reporting tools on the number of promotions accepted in new sales. If the offer was in partnership with a vendor or wholesaler these tools can be remitted to report the results up-stream for further planning and in some cases payment in the form of rebates.
Collaboration with Peers
Many of the best tools in the market offer collaboration tools for the team to communicate. This can be in the form of instant messages, team chat rooms, and in-record communication. Imagine that you are a Sales Manager reviewing an employees pipeline. You can click into the details of an opportunity and ask a question directly to your Salesperson about the prospect.
Real-time collaboration allows teams to stay on the same page and escalate issues or questions quickly. All of this information is stored within the CRM system so that any user can access and act on it quickly without sorting through their email inbox of external chat system.
Internal Help - Sales Enablement
Building on the collaboration mentioned above, some teams require multiple experts in order to put forward a quote to a client. Take for example a financial services business. The salesperson assigned to the client is there to answer questions, build a relationship, and ultimately win the deal. In the background, there is an entire team of analysts and experts that need to price the deal appropriately based on the clients industry, size, underwriting, and competition.
In a well tuned system the salesperson can gather the required information and pass it directly to the team behind the curtain for review. Upon completion the pricing is immediately available to the salesperson to make the pitch to the client. This sort of sales enablement can win more deals in record time with complete transparency inside of the company.
Onboarding of new clients is the process immediately following a closed deal. As soon as the client commits to doing business with a company the CRM system can automate the required next steps. The system can ensure that critical paperwork is collected and filed correctly, that payment terms are properly assigned to the new client, and that billing information is recorded appropriately.
The onboarding team is the final handoff between the sales staff and the project or production side of the company. Onboarding process design is a booming industry as companies work to automate the collection of documents and transition the prospect from a verbal "yes' to a paying customer.
Another growing use of CRM systems today is in the Customer Service Department. Companies who are using CRM for customer service are able to log a negative customer review or issue with an order right along side their sales history. This information can be leveraged by company management to respond in a timely, and appropriate manner.
In the past, this sort of information had to be fetched between multiple systems and took longer to complete. If a refund, or on-site visit is required to remedy the issue, that process should be initiated directly within the CRM system.
As you have seen, CRM systems are not just designed to manage a pipeline anymore. They are designed to manage the entire customer relationship from the sales (good) to the complaints (bad) and everything in between. Growing companies understand that a current customer is far more profitable when they continue to do business with you rather than the acquisition costs of a new customer. Leverage your CRM system to capture the whole relationship not only the Pipeline.